Lord Rothermere ups bid in attempt to take Daily Mail publisher private

Lord Rothermere has upped his bid to take the publisher of the Daily Mail, i, Metro and New Scientist private to try to win over investors who believe he is significantly undervaluing the business.

The family, which founded the Daily Mail in 1896 and listed the parent company, Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT), on the stock market in 1932, has upped its offer to 270p a share, valuing the newspaper business at £885m including debt.

The previous offer of 255p a share, valuing the business at £850m, prompted two top 10 shareholders – Majedie Asset Management and JO Hambro Capital Management, which control or advise on shares accounting for a combined 10.2% of DMGT – to publicly criticise the offer as woefully undervaluing the assets.

Rothermere, who has struggled to win acceptance of the deal from shareholders, has also changed the terms, so the family now needs only 50% approval from investors to delist. Those unwilling to sell will be offered shares in the private company.

The threshold when the offer was first made had been set at 90%. The family, which initially offered 251p in July to take the company private, control 36% of the company through the Jersey-registered holding company Rothermere Continuation Limited (RCL).

DMGT’s independent directors have recommended that shareholders – who have been given until 1pm on 16 December to decide whether to back Rothermere’s offer – accept the new deal.

Rothermere’s RCL holds all the vote-bearing shares in DMGT’s two-tier stock structure, and a 33.9% economic interest in the company. Other family-affiliated investors own 2.6% of DMGT’s class A shares.

RCL said it has so far received irrevocable undertakings from non-family affiliates shareholders representing 8.6% of the DMGT A shares and 7.9% of all DMGT shares.

This means that RCL has received acceptances amounting to 41.8% of all DMGT shares.

DMGT was founded by Harold Sidney Harmsworth, the first Viscount Rothermere, in 1922. He set up the Daily Mail with his brother Alfred in 1896, and subsequently launched the Daily Mirror.

Jonathan Harmsworth, 53, Harold’s great-grandson, has led the business through huge technological change as print newspapers have had to refocus their business models in the digital age. MailOnline, launched in 2003, has grown to be one of the world’s most popular English language news sites.

The publisher of the Daily Mail has been reorganising the business through disposals and targeted acquisitions of its own in recent years, having bought the New Scientist magazine in a £70m deal in March, as well as the i newspaper in a £49.6m deal two years ago.

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